By Jesse Robitaille
An undetermined number of one of the Royal Canadian Mint’s recently released test tokens has been discovered with a prominent die crack through the centre of the obverse.
Several of the Mint’s tri-metal tokens, which were issued as part of “R+D Lab Collection” this October, were found with die cracks by at least two southeastern Ontario dealers shortly after their release.
“This isn’t just a minor thing,” said one of the dealers, Kirk Parsons, who’s the co-owner of Kitchener, Ont.’s Colonial Acres.
“A lot of collectors will come in with a little raised dot or a minor die crack connecting two letters together – something that’s not uncommon and that you need a magnifying glass to see.”
The newly discovered die crack, however, is different.
“It’s cool because it’s right through the middle of the token – it’s a huge crack – so it’s a big error. And you don’t need a magnifying glass to see it, which is great.”
Composed of multi-ply plated steel; an outer ring of brass-plated steel; and inner rings of nickel-plated steel (reverse) and copper-plated steel (obverse), the token was the Mint’s first-ever tri-metal piece.
It was issued as part of the six-piece “R+D” set, which has a mintage of 10,000 sets, and weighs 7.62 grams with a 24.65-millimetre diameter. Its die-cracked obverse design features the Mint’s logo on the copper-plated steel insert. The die crack crosses the centre of the token from top to bottom through both the inner and outer rings. Its reverse design depicts a maple leaf on the nickel-plated steel insert.
Interestingly, one of the 67 customer reviews submitted Oct. 28 to the Mint website – this from “Tweeze,” a collector from Hamilton, Ont. – explains “the tri-metal coin has a crack on the maple leaf side from one end to another.”
A die crack is a “result of a defect in the die which strikes the planchets forming them into coins,” according to an article in the November/December 2003 issue of Errorscope, the award-winning bi-monthly journal published by the Combined Organization of Numismatic Error Collectors of America (CONECA) since May 1965.
“Under tons of pressure for hundreds of thousands of strikes, the metal becomes fatigued and the steel die begins to crack. The result is an irregular raised line on the surface of the coin where the planchet metal has squeezed into the crack on the die.”
The tri-metal token die crack was stumbled upon “by mistake,” Parsons said, adding it was his photographer who actually made the initial discovery.
“We were cutting up sets for singles, and we sent them down to our imaging department. The guy that does our images was looking at the pictures and couldn’t figure out why there was a line through the token.”
The photographer checked his lenses and screen before looking at the token and noticing the die crack.
“He brought it to our attention, and we proceeded to go through our inventory and found a small percentage of our sets included the die cracks,” Parsons said. “We pulled those aside.”
The number of errors found “wasn’t a huge percentage,” he added.
“We order small batches at a time, maybe a few dozen sets.”
Once the find becomes public knowledge, Parsons expects collectors to be “digging through their own sets trying to find one.”
“It’s a substantial die crack, and it’s on a better set,” he said, of the test token set – something the Mint has issued seven times since 1984, when a four-piece set (Charlton TTS-1) was released.
“Historically, these sets have done well and hold their value – and some have gone up in value in the past – so it’s kind of neat to find an error on a better item like this.”
So far, Parsons has “only sold a few examples online as singles,” he said on Nov. 10.
“I haven’t sold any as complete sets yet. Obviously, when we get a feel for how many are out there and what the demand is, the market will dictate how expensive they’ll be, which we’ve seen in the past. If it turns out there are not a lot, then they’ll be more expensive. If there are a lot, it’ll just be an interesting error.”
Parsons added he plans to certify the errors with the International Coin Certification Service.
The error collecting community has “a big following,” Parsons said.
“A lot of errors are noted in various books and error-collecting guides, and a lot of error collectors will sift through our loose coinage at the store, looking for different die cracks and different little raised spots. Some aren’t actually attributed in most books, but it’s their hobby, so they’re looking for odds and ends, and there are quite a few of those around.”